Save yourself the 49 cents (the cost of a stamp, in case you’re too lazy to Google it) and don’t bother sending in the hate mail. I get it. Two games is too small a sample size, and you’re right. But we’re in this game to overreact, over analyze and overdo every single thing we see, so that’s what we’ll do.
And, boy, have we seen plenty from the Boston Bruins through the first 120 minutes of the season.
Here are the five things that immediately jumped out in the Bruins’ 2-1 win over Philadelphia on Opening Night and the 2-1 loss the very next night in Detroit.
DOWN TWO AND A HALF CENTERS IS A ROUGH WAY TO START. No first-line pivot David Krejci, and no face-off specialist/penalty killing/tough guy Gregory Campbell in the lineup puts Boston in quite a predicament.
It’s obvious that, despite finishing in the Top-5 in the National Hockey League in total goals scored in four of the last five seasons, the Bruins are going to have trouble generating scoring without their first-line center in Krejci. Just three goals through two games is enough of a statement, but it’s not just that Krejci’s absence has blown up any semblance of a top line (we’ll get to Milan Lucic in a bit). It’s that without Krecji and his mates controlling the puck possession game and helping to pin the opposition in its own end of the building for long stretches, it’s that it doesn’t open things up for the Patrice Bergeron and Carl Soderberg lines. For as long as Claude Julien has been behind the bench, this team has prided itself on the ability to roll four effective, hard to play against trios that eventually wear you down.
And don’t overlook the absence of Campbell to start the season, either. Sure, he’s a cross between what the team used to get from its fourth line (brawn) and what it hopes to have in the future (brawn AND ability), but he’s also a big piece of the penalty kill — alongside Daniel Paille — and a second center on the ice as insurance for key defensive zone draws late in hockey games. Right now there’s Bergeron and nobody else for that.
TUUKKA TIME. If you thought that Tuukka Rask’ Vezina Trophy campaign from a year ago was either a fluke or a product of the system, these first two games of 2014-15 should put those doubts to rest.
Rask stopped 41 of 44 shots faced across the two contests was at his absolute peak for most of the night against the Red Wings — when it was clear that a lack of focus and effort from the guys in front of him left him to fend for himself all to often. He made some huge saves in the third period against Detroit to at least give the Bruins a chance at salvaging a point they clearly didn’t deserve.
(Spoiler alert: They didn't get the point.)
AHL PLAYERS PLAY IN THE AHL FOR A REASON. Don’t think so? Still subscribe to that popular theory that “all they need is an opportunity?” You’re out of your mind.
The Bruins iced the same lineup for each of their first two games — lineups that included four forwards that have spent virtually their entire career in the minor leagues. To the surprise of nobody possessing a sound mind and feel for these things, the only two forward lines that managed to create any offensive chances were the Bergeron and Soderbert trios — trios with only NHL-caliber proven players on them.
Which brings us to…
DOES MILAN LUCIC REALIZE THE SEASON HAS STARTED? Granted, part of Lucic’s slow start here (read: zero shots through two games) is that he’s been stripped of Krecji as his centerman and he’s grouped with the likes of Ryan Spooner and Matt Fraser.
I’m not in the camp that thinks Spooner is a can’t-miss guy. After a decade covering the AHL back in the day, I’ve seen too many players who are lights-out in the minors but can’t make the transition to the big club — Andy Hilbert, Ivan Huml and Cameron Mann all come to mind. But none of that excuses the fact that Lucic, perhaps the streakiest of streaky current Bruins, has been a no-show thus far.
If he’s not scoring, he needs to at least be a physical presence, especially as he tries to create space for his green linemates.
YOUNG ‘D’ PLAYING LIKE YOUNG ‘D.’ I thought Dougie Hamilton would really take off this season, and chances are, he probably will. Torey Krug, on the other hand, I’m still not convinced. After a year of watching him get muscled off every loose puck and seeing him turn it over at the offensive blue line, I’m not sure his game is ever going to be more than that of “power play specialist.”
All that aside, it’s surprising to see how poorly the two young defensemen have played in the season’s very early stages. Hamilton’s ice time was cut quite a bit on Thursday night, with good reason, while Krug generates a ton of shots, mostly on the power play.
With Adam McQuaid healthy and Kevan Miller a known commodity now, both Hamilton and Krug need to be much better than they’ve been.
HONORABLE MENTION here has to go to Chris Kelly.
I know it’s easy to look at Kelly and his $3 million salary and turn him into an easy whipping boy. But keep in mind that no NHL team in the salary cap era can be chock full of all-stars, and the best teams in the league — the Blackhawks and Kings, for starters — are built with depth across all lines and defensive pairings. That being said, when healthy, Kelly has always performed well.
Knocking in a late game-winning goal against the Flyers is a sign, hopefully, that good things are in store for the veteran this year if he can keep up with Soderberg to create a dynamic third line capable of playing a few different roles.
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